Trump could face a nuclear decision soon

Bruce Blair writes: I was the former nuclear missile launch officer who in October appeared in a TV advertisement for Hillary Clinton, saying: “The thought of Donald Trump with nuclear weapons scares me to death. It should scare everyone.” The ad featured various quotes from Trump’s campaign rallies and interviews, in which he says, among other things: “I would bomb the shit out of ’em,” “I wanna be unpredictable,” and “I love war.” As I walked through a nuclear missile launch center in the ad, I explained that “self-control may be all that keeps these missiles from firing.”

We will see all of our fears—and the new president-elect’s self-control—put to the test over the next four years. When Trump takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, there will be no shortage of combustible tensions around the globe. And Trump will need to make some critical decisions quickly — including whether he truly wants, as he suggested during the campaign, a world in which there are even more nuclear powers than we have today.

These tensions are present even now and show no signs of easing. For starters, U.S.-led NATO and Russian military forces are shadow boxing with increasing intensity. The mutual intimidation is steadily escalating, and Trump’s soft commitment to NATO’s defense has not helped. Rather than assuaging the Russians, it has only stoked insecurity in Europe and perhaps tempted Russia to intervene in the Baltic states. In other words, appeasement only makes matters more unstable.

In East Asia, meanwhile, a mercurial and belligerent leader of North Korea will soon be able to brandish nuclear-armed missiles to credibly threaten South Korea, Japan and the U.S. homeland with nuclear devastation. The timeline for this threat to materialize is very short — months or a low number of years. (Trump himself mentioned the threat in his “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday.) Kim Jong Un’s provocations combined with Trump’s soft-pedaling of the U.S. defense commitment in Asia have put the entire region on edge and provoked South Korea to consider acquiring a nuclear arsenal in self defense.

There are other crises brewing as well, including in the South China Sea and the Middle East. As China lays claim to nearly all of this sea in part to create safe bastions for its new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, the U.S. has intensified its air, sea, and undersea surveillance and anti-submarine warfare operations, increasing the chances of hostile encounters. In the Middle East, U.S. and Russian forces are operating in very close and not-so-friendly quarters in the Syrian theater, and the specter of a region going nuclear looms larger than ever as Trump warns he will tear up and re-negotiate the hard-won Iranian nuclear deal. This ill-advised move would set Iran free to resume its nuclear program, while spurring Iran’s enemies to follow suit, as well as re-opening the debate over U.S.-Israeli pre-emptive strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. [Continue reading…]

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The United States is giving Putin the green light for atrocities in Aleppo

In an editorial, the Washington Post says: On Monday, Vladi­mir Putin and Donald Trump spoke by phone about Syria and agreed on “the need to work together in the struggle against the No. 1 common enemy — international terrorism and extremism,” according to a Kremlin statement. Hours later, Russia and its Syrian allies launched a massive new bombing campaign against eastern Aleppo and other rebel-held territories. Just a coincidence? Not likely, given what we know about Mr. Putin.

There are no Islamic State forces in Aleppo, though Mr. Trump does not appear to be aware of that fact. There are an estimated 250,000 civilians who, according to the United Nations, received the last available food rations last week. There are also rebel forces that until now have been trained and supplied by the United States and its allies, as well as groups linked to al-Qaeda. Surrounded by Syrian, Iranian and Shiite militia forces since July, all face the same brutal ultimatum President Bashar al-Assad has delivered to other rebel-held areas: Surrender, or die through bombing or starvation.

Mr. Putin’s evident aim is to support the Assad regime in a campaign to overrun the city, and perhaps other rebel-held areas, during the 2½ months of the U.S. presidential transition. If so, the result will likely be the worst humanitarian catastrophe yet in a war that has already seen more than 400,000 people killed by bombing, chemical weapons, torture and other depravities. Yet neither the outgoing nor the incoming U.S. president appears willing to do anything to prevent this calamity.

President Obama was asked about Aleppo at his news conference Monday by a journalist who pointed out that the United States had intervened to prevent a similar assault on the Libyan city of Benghazi. “We don’t have that option easily available to us,” said Mr. Obama, who recently set aside several such options, such as grounding the Syrian air force. He added that the administration would continue to press for “humanitarian safe spaces and cease-fires” before conceding, “I recognize that that has not worked.” While the honesty was welcome, Mr. Obama’s apparent willingness to watch fecklessly as hundreds of thousands of people are starved and bombed during his final weeks in office is morally abject. It will deepen the ineradicable stain Syria will leave on his legacy.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has all but given Mr. Putin the green light for atrocities. While we don’t know the specifics of what was said in his conversation with the Russian ruler, the president-elect in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday repeated that “Syria is fighting ISIS and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria.”

Again, the Syrian regime is not fighting the Islamic State in Aleppo. It is bombing and besieging its own citizens, with Russian and Iranian help. In refusing to allow aid deliveries and in targeting hospitals, it is willfully committing crimes against humanity. “I don’t think anybody wants a quarter of a million people to be starving in east Aleppo,” said Jan Egeland, the head of a U.N.-backed humanitarian task force. Tragically, he is wrong. The Assad regime and Mr. Putin want it. Mr. Obama is unwilling to prevent it. And Mr. Trump is, at best, indifferent. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports: In an interview broadcast Tuesday with Portugal’s state-run RTP television, Assad accused armed groups he called “terrorists” of occupying eastern Aleppo and refusing government offers to evacuate. He said his mission was to liberate civilians.

Assad also identified president-elect Trump as a possible “natural ally,” if he turned out to be “genuine” about his commitment to fight terror in Syria. Trump has indicated he would prioritize defeating the Islamic State group in Syria over regime change, saying the rebels could be “worse” than the sitting president. [Continue reading…]

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How Donald Trump will make Russia great again in the Middle East

David Gardner writes: Mr Trump will get along just fine with local strongmen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian army chief who took power in 2013 in what was initially a popularly backed coup, was among the first to congratulate him. The president-elect has argued against too much criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the purges that followed this July’s failed coup in Turkey. The construction tycoon, in any case, makes them look moderate since neither leader publicly endorses torture or killing the families of terror suspects.

In broad terms, a Trump administration will almost certainly de-emphasise human rights, gender equality and the rule of law. Man-made climate change afflicts the ancient fertile crescent but, unlike Mr Trump, its inhabitants probably doubt it is “a hoax” (drought and desertification were factors behind the initial uprising in Syria).

The fixation of Barack Obama’s administration is the defeat of Isis in Syria and Iraq. That will remain true under a Trump administration, but with a difference. President Obama lost interest in helping Sunni rebels topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Mr Trump seems inclined towards co-operating with President Vladimir Putin, Mr Assad’s patron and another strongman soulmate, in ways that will do more to make Russia than America great again. [Continue reading…]

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Megyn Kelly on dealing with sexual harassment and the threat President Trump may pose to journalism

 

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There’s no such thing as a good Trump voter

Jamelle Bouie writes: Millions of Americans are justifiably afraid of what they’ll face under a Trump administration. If any group demands our support and sympathy, it’s these people, not the Americans who backed Trump and his threat of state-sanctioned violence against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim Americans. All the solicitude, outrage, and moral telepathy being deployed in defense of Trump supporters — who voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes — is perverse, bordering on abhorrent.

It’s worth repeating what Trump said throughout the election. His campaign indulged in hateful rhetoric against Hispanics and condemned Muslim Americans with the collective guilt of anyone who would commit terror. It treated black America as a lawless dystopia and spoke of black Americans as dupes and fools. And to his supporters, Trump promised mass deportations, a ban on Muslim entry to the United States, and strict “law and order” as applied to those black communities. Trump is now president-elect. Judging from his choices for the transition — figures like immigration hardliner Kris Kobach and white nationalist Stephen Bannon — it’s clear he plans to deliver on those promises.

Whether Trump’s election reveals an “inherent malice” in his voters is irrelevant. What is relevant are the practical outcomes of a Trump presidency. Trump campaigned on state repression of disfavored minorities. He gives every sign that he plans to deliver that repression. This will mean disadvantage, immiseration, and violence for real people, people whose “inner pain and fear” were not reckoned worthy of many-thousand-word magazine feature stories. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this, regardless of what you believe about the groups in question. That you have black friends or Latino colleagues, that you think yourself to be tolerant and decent, doesn’t change the fact that you voted for racist policy that may affect, change, or harm their lives. And on that score, your frustration at being labeled a racist doesn’t justify or mitigate the moral weight of your political choice. [Continue reading…]

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The challenge for anti-racists looking for solutions in Trump’s America

German Lopez writes: In 2016, researchers stumbled on a radical tactic for reducing another person’s bigotry: a frank, brief conversation.

The study, authored by David Broockman at Stanford University and Joshua Kalla at the University of California Berkeley, looked at how simple conversations can help combat anti-transgender attitudes. In the research, people canvassed the homes of more than 500 voters in South Florida. The canvassers, who could be trans or not, asked the voters to simply put themselves in the shoes of trans people — to understand their problems — through a 10-minute, nonconfrontational conversation. The hope was that the brief discussion could lead people to reevaluate their biases.

It worked. The trial found not only that voters’ anti-trans attitudes declined but that they remained lower three months later, showing an enduring result. And those voters’ support for laws that protect trans people from discrimination increased, even when they were presented with counterarguments for such laws.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this research since Election Day. After Donald Trump’s victory last week, it is clear that the prejudiced views of a lot of Americans helped elect to the White House a man who’s repeatedly made racist, offensive statements. Not only did Trump build his campaign largely on fears of immigrants and Muslims, but based on a lot of polls and surveys, he also attracted the voters who reported, by far, the highest levels of racial resentment and other prejudiced views. [Continue reading…]

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How America got Trumped

Kenan Malik writes: Trump can be seen as an agent of change only because real agents of change, progressive social movements that can truly transform people’s lives, have largely eroded.

What we are witnessing is a crisis both of the political class and of progressive opposition to it. The political elite is so disengaged from the electorate that it failed to recognize the depth of anger and disaffection from mainstream institutions and its party machines have become so rusty that they could not check the Trump surge. And oppositional movements are so weakened that Trump can be seen by many as an agent of change.

It is this dual crisis that is unstitching politics, and not just in America. The same phenomenon is at play in Europe, driving the success of the reactionary populist groups from the Sweden Democrats to the Front National in France. And globally, too, from Turkey to India, from Egypt to South Africa, the old order is coming unstitched while opposition movements that have emerged to give voice to that disaffection are often rooted in religious or ethnic identity, and are often sectarian or separatist in form. As in Europe and the USA there is a hole where progressive social movements should be.

There have been many apocalyptic prognostications in the wake of Trump’s success. His victory, many claim, will lead to everything from the rise of fascism to the end of the West. The real issue lies less with Trump himself, than with the dual crisis of the elite and of opposition movement. It is how we address this, and in particular whether we are able to build real movements for change, that will shape the future, and not just in the USA. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s win may be just the beginning of a global populist wave

The Washington Post reports: Not long before Americans shocked the world by selecting Donald Trump to be their next president, a wealthy Brazilian businessman who played a reality-star boss on television became mayor of South America’s largest city.

On the other side of the globe, in Southeast Asia, a gun-slinging vigilante who vowed to kill all criminals and dump their bodies until the “fish will grow fat” was elected to lead a nation of 100 million.

And in Britain, voters with a centuries-long streak of moderation and pragmatism opted to ignore the overwhelming advice of experts by leaping into the abyss of life outside the European Union.

The populist wave of 2016 that carried Trump to the pinnacle of international power and influence didn’t start in the United States. And it certainly won’t end there.

Instead, the biggest prize yet for a global movement built on a seemingly bottomless reserve of political, economic and cultural grievance is likely to be an accelerant to even more victories for people and causes bent on upending the existing world order.

“Success breeds success,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Right now, everyone is susceptible to it. The drivers seem to be universal.”

And unless something dramatic changes to curb the populist appeal, a scattering of surprise victories this year could soon turn into a worldwide rout — the triumph of those who preach strong action over rule of law, unilateralism instead of cooperation and the interests of the majority above the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. [Continue reading…]

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ISIS commander says Trump’s ‘utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands’

Reuters reports: From Afghanistan to Algeria, jihadists plan to use Donald Trump’s shock U.S. presidential victory as a propaganda tool to bring new fighters to their battlefields.

Taliban commanders and Islamic State supporters say Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric against Muslims – at one point calling for a total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States – will play perfectly in their recruitment efforts, especially for disaffected youth in the West.

“This guy is a complete maniac. His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands,” Abu Omar Khorasani, a top IS commander in Afghanistan, told Reuters.

Trump has talked tough against militant groups on the campaign trail, promising to defeat “radical Islamic terrorism just as we won the Cold War.” [Continue reading…]

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Swedish Nazi group hails Trump in largest demo yet

The Local reports: Sweden’s neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) mounted the biggest march in its history on Saturday, with its leadership saying the election of Donald Trump in the US marked the start of a world revolution.

Five people were arrested and two were injured in Stockholm on Saturday as an estimated 600 far-right demonstrators marched from the central Kungsträdgården park to Mynttorget, the square where Sweden’s parliament is based in historic Gamla Stan.

“A number of people have been held. They were aggressive at one of our barriers,” Kjell Lindgren, a press spokesman for the Stockholm police said. He said that police had registered two cases of violent rioting, which carries a maximum four-year sentence. At least twenty others were detained for the duration of the march.

The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and press commentators had questioned the wisdom of authorising Saturday’s rally, given the likelihood of violence. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump interviewed on 60 Minutes

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Post-election spate of hate crimes worse than post-9/11

USA Today reports: What may seem like a dramatic rise in the number of hate harassment and hate incidents happening across the country in the wake of Tuesday’s general election is not in anyone’s imagination, experts say.

There indeed has been a spike in the number of reports of such incidents, say representatives for two organizations that track such occurrences. A representative for one group, in fact, said the rise appears to be even worse that what was took place immediately after the terror attacks in 2001.

“Since the election, we’ve seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump’s election,” Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., told USA TODAY. “The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats,” Cohen said.

The incidents, some that bring up memories of the Jim Crow era, continued into Friday. In Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania issued a statement saying it was working to find the source of racist messages sent to black freshmen, and in Syracuse, N.Y., a group of pickup trucks – one draped with the Confederate flag – drove through an anti-Trump rally. In Columbus, Ohio, a man banged on the car window while a Muslim woman was driving, her children and elderly parents with her, and told her, “C–t, you don’t belong in this country,” according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington.

All those were added to the list of incidents that included black children being told to get to the back of a bus and Latino children being taunted about the wall that Trump promised to build between Mexico and the United States. [Continue reading…]

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